nineveh_uk: photo of lava (volcano)
It is well known that Icelandic pronunciation can be difficult for native English speakers. This is in large part due to its non-intuitive spelling, which uses letters to represent completely different sounds from those in English.

For instance, it is not easy to guess from the spelling that the correct pronunciation of Eyjafjallajökull is ‘the Icelandic volcano’, nor that Grímsvötn is correctly pronounced as ‘another Icelandic volcano’. Given these examples, the English speaker, used to working with a spelling system that seems to work on the principle of ‘find a work that is spelled like that and pronounce it slightly differently’* might naturally assume that Bárðarbunga is pronounced ‘a further Icelandic volcano’. But no! The good people at Iceland Review tell us that it isn’t pronounced like that at all, in fact that it is pronounced fairly similarly as it is spelt – just as long as you know how to pronounce á in Icelandic, of course – and helpfully provide this example.

Will it erupt? Obviously I hope so, though in a minor tourist way that doesn’t cost too much or interfere with my flights. Volcano enthusiast as I am, I don’t feel the need to witness a repeat of the Laki eruption/Skaftár Fires

If it does erupt, what will the broadcast media do? Will they take the sensible course of getting a sound file from the embassy now and agreeing on a reasonable approximation that will be used by all employees, much as we do with Barcelona, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, Kilimanjaro and pretty much everywhere abroad that doesn’t have its own name in English? I wouldn’t count on it. Why say boring Bowthabungya when you can try and say Bárðarbunga exactly like an Icelander, fail, and fall back on ‘a different Icelandic volcano’, while hoping desperately that the next one to go up is Katla.

*Applied to paperwork, this is the principle on which the entire administration of the University of Oxford seems to operate.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
A friend linked me to this story of literary feelings running high: Russian Man Stabbed to Death in Poetry-Over-Prose Dispute.

Russia appears to have form on this - last September a man was shot in a dispute about Kant.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
Quoted in the Grauniad, on the leaking of JK Rowling's new pen-name:

We, Russells Solicitors, apologise unreservedly for the disclosure caused by one of our partners, Chris Gossage, in revealing to his wife's best friend, [name given in the statement*], during a private conversation that the true identity of Robert Galbraith was in fact JK Rowling.

Whilst accepting his own culpability, the disclosure was made in confidence to someone he trusted implicitly.

There's nothing like "It wasn't really the fault of the person who told the secret, it was the one he told the secret too! She should have kept the secret, even though he should never have told her the secret and she might therefore reasonably have thought it wasn't that much of a secret" not to convince the reader.

One of the things I am quite proud of at work is that I have a reputation for absolute discretion on the personnel/personal business that comes across my desk. I'm less happy that this means that I end up with both sides of something coming to ask me about it and wanting different answers, or that I end up looking into things up for people because they don't want to ask officially, which takes time I haven't got, but it's not a bad price to pay for knowing that people are confident they can tell me very confidential stuff and know that I won't tell. An essential professional quality that Mr Gossange seems to have lost, presumably along with JK Rowling's business.


I am supposed to be packing. I had better go and do it.

*Something I am also really not impressed by. She shouldn't have done it. But she didn't do it while being specifically paid not to do it, and she isn't professionally involved. Giving out her name to the papers is unnecessary and petty.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Default)
Hard as it is to beat the headline seen on a newsboard in Bridlington "Horse Fetish Flashed in Court"* for headline of the week, the Iceland Review managed it with Seven-Year-Old Wins Iceland Ram Groping Contest. Even better, this story really is about a seven year-old who won the amateur section of a ram groping contest - prizes include (ram) sperm from the Insemination Center of West Iceland. Despite said prizes, I assume that groping is a mistranslation of a word/phrase about judging the quality of rams. Anyone can read Icelandic and would be good enough to tell me what was actually meant by groping and how the error, er, arose, the source is here.

The competition involves laypersons attempting to rank rams that have been ranked by professional ram-rankers, and explaining why. Says the organiser:

“One year a contestant was able to rank the rams correctly and described them all in a poem. That was very interesting.” Evidently there isn't much to do in Iceland in summer.

*Which turned out to be a mis-print for "Horse Fetish Flaster in Court", and is unfortunately a rather more sad and less funny story than one might have hoped for.
nineveh_uk: Picture of hollyhocks in bloom. Caption "WTF hollyhocks!" (hollyhocks)
Of course, I knew in theory that, being female, an observer of the speed limit, and not of his political persuasion, Jeremy Clarkson hated me. I didn't actually realise that he really did want me dead.

To remind you of a couple of recent cases:

Twitter user Paul Chambers received a £1000 fine for something that was obviously a joke.

A couple of kids on Facebook got four years for inciting a riot. Various other people were charged, but not found guilty.

Since Jeremy Clarkson wants me to be taken outside and executed in front of my family (and let’s not forget that public sector workers who don’t work in comfortable university offices are frequently subjected to violence in the course of their work), I wish Unison the best of look in finding something for him to be charged with. Prosecuting people who use a major public platform (and you don't get much bigger than primetime BBC1) to promote violence against a group already disproportionately affected by violence sounds an entirely sensible use of CPS money in my book. Meanwhile, the PM thinks that this is absolutely OK as long as the speaker "didn't really mean it". That'll be a great comfort to the next parademic who gets his head kicked in.
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Default)
As I can't do a picture from a file on DW: the Equality of Sacrifice cartoon.
nineveh_uk: photo of lava (volcano)
I am off work with a mild dose of plane plague. This gives me the opportunity to catch up with the last three episodes of Doctor Who.

It also gives me the opportunity to introduce you to Thomson charter flights' (who took us to Italy and who, as previously, proved themselves rather good. They have very nice stewards) attempt to get passengers to watch the flight safety demonstration. I always watch flight safety videos because I don't trust anyone else to, and I always read the card about how to open the emergency doors, but this time I was, unusually, accompanied by almost everyone else.

This is because the 2011 Thomson flight safety video appears to be delivered by Amelia Pond.
nineveh_uk: Picture of hollyhocks in bloom. Caption "WTF hollyhocks!" (hollyhocks)
Prescott can be a plonker, but I like this lunchtime quote on the resignation of Rebekah Brooks:

The former deputy prime minister said that, in her resignation letter, Brooks talked about not being able to remain "on the bridge". As a former seafarer, he found this strange, he said. "I would not like her on the bridge, if she did not know what was going on, where she was going or what direction it was."
nineveh_uk: Picture of hollyhocks in bloom. Caption "WTF hollyhocks!" (hollyhocks)
Insofar as it is possible whilst attempting to do a full day’s work, I cannot take my eyes off the unrolling story around the News of the World, News International, and the whole story of hacking, spying, bribery, corruption, lying in various places, to various people, and under oath, appalling security failures, appalling security breaches, obstructing police investigations (sometimes by the police), covering up murder, covering up bribery, covering up lying to parliament, obtaining data illegally in clear breach of the DPA whatever the methods used. Or as someone commenting in the Guardian put it:

“If spying on the prime minister, the deputy prime minister, the monarch, families of murder victims, families of dead soldiers and a child's medical records as well as bribing police officers and concealing evidence doesn't make an organisation not 'fit and proper' to hold a broadcasting licence I don't know what conceivable crime could.”

The whole thing is like a hydra in reverse: no sooner is a new head born than it sprouts another ten. Take yesterday evening’s story on a royal protection officer – a policeman - selling royal family contact details to NI – details that would allow location to be identified. It’s easy to over-use “terrorism”, but that really is serious security-at-the-heart-of-the-realm failure, because of course, once you’ve sold to one person you are (a) vulnerable to future target, and (b) have no control who will sell stuff on. Being a republican doesn’t actually mean I want the head of state’s security staff to be merrily selling their safety to anyone who comes up with the cash. And guess who the emails show was asked for the money to buy the stuff – that’s right, Andy Coulson. At this point, whether Coulson handed over the money is irrelevant; what matters is that he didn’t report an extraordinary security breach. And then he ended up in Number 10 because David Cameron decided he “deserved a second chance.”

That’s one tiny hydra head, but there’s more. And more. And more and more and more. The Met claim “cock-up, not conspiracy”. To borrow a well-known phrase, any sufficiently wide-spread cock-up becomes indistinguishable from conspiracy. Time for some independent oversight, methinks. I am sure that Hull and Birmingham would be willing. Come to that, NI is still acting directly to impede the investigation.

And there’s more. And more and more and more. “Worse to come” said Brooks (God, that woman is brilliant in her own way. It is hard to say “respect where it is due”, but perhaps “due acknowledgement that a genius found its field”). You bet there is. This one’s been building for years and it's going to run and run. The only question is, so many people having been trampled in the past, who is going down now?

I refer you again to Steve Bell's masterly cartoon. (SFW insofar as it is in the Guardian, but not if your workplace objects to cartoon nudity in broadsheet papers.)


nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Default)

September 2017

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